Ten reasons why introverts fail at networking

Apr 30, 2008 by

20080430_networking-fail.jpgWhat is holding you back from networking?

This is the last part of the networking for introvert series. There have been 2 articles from the experts, the first one is written by a financial adviser: Lim Chih Yang, and another is from a networking specialist: Jason Jacobsohn. Both admit that they are introverts by preference but both of them have made great steps into a career that involves a lot of networking. What does that mean? introverts have potential to be a strong person in networking. It’s not undoubtable, yet it has to be developed.

In the previous articles, there have been a lot of tips on making use of introverts’ strength in networking. Some to be mentioned are listening, focus on few people, analyze your way of networking, be authentic, and many others. Enough about the strength, now we need to get into the introverts’ weakness. You will not be able to change unless you understand what makes you weak on networking. Awareness is very important, especially not to fall into the same trap again and again.

For that purpose, let me give you a list of what might holding you back on your success in networking. I am going to divide into three parts:

  • the reason why you fail before you network,
  • the reason why you fail while you network, and
  • the reason why you fail after you network.

And now, let’s get into the details, starting with why you fail to even start networking.

1. Simply less energy

Introverts are like a rechargeable battery… extroverts are like solar panels.
Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D

Introverts need break to recharge, that is normal. But the point is not making it as an excuse to avoid any networking opportunities. If you need a break, you can consider taking the break to help you network, not avoiding it out of cowardice. Reserve your energy so that you can deal with people, and you will be surprised that you are actually more confident than you think you are.

2. Preference over things than people

Most introverts prefer to work with things rather than people. It does not mean that introverts are selfish, what they are working with the “things” might be for greater purpose, dream and vision, and helping others might be one of them.

The problem lies with how we sometimes overwhelmed by our preference that we could not appreciate the people we have around us. Randy Pausch shared a story in his last lecture (*the video below) that sticks to my mind. It was the instance when he were giving his nephew and niece a ride on his new car. They were eating something, and their mom warned them not to dirty their uncle’s new car. Randy on the other hand, took the drink and pour it down to his car. He did not mind his new car get dirty as long as his nephew and niece enjoy their trip. That story really makes a great impact on me, not to value things more than people.

Remember! The end goal you have on pursuing your dreams must be something to do with people. It’s not about you or your “things”.

3. Productivity freak

The “things” here are not necessarily about material things as well. That includes the abstract things such as tasks, goals, schedules, plans, rules and procedures. In Myers Brigg personality, it’s described on the Lifestyle dichotomy, which is J (Judging) instead of P (Perceiving).

When it comes to networking, you simply cannot avoid that your relationship involves people. And sadly, you can not get efficient or calculative with people. As John Maxwell put it in his book, Winning with People, the journey with others is always slower. You have to accept it, the moment you go for your networking, you must remember that you are slowing down your life. In John Maxwell’s word…

If you travel alone, you can probably go faster. But the journey will never be as rewarding, and you probably won’t be able to go as far.
~John C. Maxwell (Winning with People)

If you are a productivity freak, let’s think again. What’s the purpose of productivity we are pursuing? Scott H. Young, shared an interesting piece on productivity…

The problem with being productive is that it isn’t a complete solution. If you don’t have interesting hobbies, social skills and a flare for spontaneity, getting more work done will just be replaced with more work. But if you have those skills, being more productive lets you get more done while giving more time for the other aspects of life.
~Scott H. Young (How to keep productivity from making you a robot)

Are you trying to be productive, simply to put more things to do? or to be able to spend time with people?

4. Satisfaction with online friends

You may say, I do network, I’m doing it while chatting, emailing, blogging or responding to articles and comments. I agree, online life is much easier for introverts, but that is simply not enough. As I have shared earlier, blogging helped me to become better at words, it is a good training ground to socialize. However, you will get a very much different experience while socializing with real people.

Steve Pavlina, wrote an article “How to go from introvert to extrovert.” In the article, he shared one of the obstacle of becoming an extrovert, that is “overvaluing online socializing.” Let us not to fall into this trap. And again I want to emphasize, do not let introversion label you, you can stretch yourself more than you think you can.

Okay, I managed to change your mind. Now you understand the importance of socializing with offline friends and you go for a networking event. However, you feel terrible, you feel uncomfortable. You may think, “What’s wrong with me?”. Let me tell you, it is normal, you’re just distracted. What is the common distraction for introverts while networking? Here is the list:

5. Nervousness

Are you nervous in an event of networking? Here is an article from Jason Jacobsohn I want you to read… “5 mindsets to help you tackle your fear to strangers.

Rather than dredging talking to strangers, think about a room full of opportunities.
~Jason Jacobsohn (5 mindsets to help you tackle your fear of talking to strangers)

It is a great article, you will get many mindsets that help you avoid your fear to network and talk with strangers. Channel your fear into action and take networking as the opportunity to learn to hone and communicate your message. As the old proverb said “practice makes perfect”. Don’t give up when you fail and nervous, you will improve the more frequent you do it.

6. Selfishness

What makes you nervous actually? Just like public speaking, you are nervous when you think to much about yourself. Instead of thinking about how you look, think about what you can give to the person you are talking to. Instead of wondering how make a good impression of ourselves, think about how we listen and just be who we are. When there is no longer impression in your agenda, you will be much more relax, and you will be surprised that you and the other person will enjoy the conversation more.

Part of impressing others is pretending you know about the topic they are talking about. Again it is an example of selfishness in networking. To appear knowledgeable, we often put a different image. You’ll be a fake, you will certainly not enjoy it (unless you have gotten used into it), and it will make a negative impact on your trust. Yes, telling others you do not know sometimes will make others look lowly on you, and some even taking a step back and leaving you behind. What I am going to say in this circumstance is looking at the bigger picture, think how much you have learned from this time, and do not let this disappointment holding you back from your success in the future. Remember the quote below…

Be what you are, that’s the first step to become better than you are.
~Julius Charles Hare

7. Half-hearted

When you network, do not think about your previous agenda nor your next agenda. Give attention fully to the person you are talking to. If you easily forget names, check out my article, Networking: Watch out why you forget names!

I take public transports here in Singapore, and as a productivity freak, I normally plan something to do while traveling. That can be reading a book, listening to podcast, songs, or just relaxing myself and taking a short nap. Meeting a friend made me a bit unhappy as I have to accompany them talking and cancel my agenda. I am not comfortable with rejecting him/her, so what I was doing is half-heartedly converse with him/her. Consequently, I was unable to give full attention to him. A very common distraction I have encountered is my desire to get a seat inside the public transport. That prevents me in giving fully attention to my friend, as my eyes wandering around if only there are empty seats. That’s a possible distraction I’m talking about.

What you should do? What I have learned is letting go. Letting go of my schedule and things I plan to do. And next, take this as a real opportunity to network, to listen and learn from him, as well as sharing about myself. If you do consider your agenda really important, and letting go is too costly for you, you better consider of leaving the networking event. You will not look as if you are not enjoying the event while you are there. Let them know you have something to do and have to leave earlier. That’s normal and even suggested by Marti Olsen in her book, the Introvert Advantage.

8. Low self esteem

“I have nothing interesting to say!” “People will not be interested in me!”. Those statements simply show that you lose before you even fight. Some of the previous articles have shared with you, when you do not have anything interesting to say, listen and learn, ask if you need to. However, that’s not enough, you can’t only learn while networking, you need to give, share your knowledge and help as well. That is what the point of crafting your story is very important. Take time to work on something you have been passionated on. A statement from Jason’s guest post here stated it very well.

Introverts need to pick a topic that they are passionate about and start branding themselves as the go to person for this subject.
~Jason Jacobsohn

9. Perfectionism

“What if you are saying the wrong thing?”, “What if they are not impressed by me?” Those are the normal questions that keep on appearing for a perfectionist while networking. Scott H. Young got into the heart of perfectionism very well, here is his take “spontaneity is the opposite of cowardice.” Isn’t your perfectionism reflecting your cowardice? If you reflect, you will really see it. The last networking session I went is Social Media Breakfast in Singapore, organized by Darryl, Derrick, and Sheylara. The experience was wonderful, yet it’s a time where I have to challenge myself again, from the comfort zone of an introvert to talk with many new faces. Just like the event I attended, a most common thing in networking session is that you will see people forming into small groups. There will be awkward times when you are left with no one to talk to. That is the time you will need spontaneity, just get into the group and the conversation. Start listening and talk whatever you can talk. Mistakes? it is normal, and it has to be made, so that you will learn.

20080430-goal.jpgYou’ve got considerably successful during your networking session, but you may fail if you don’t do anything after the session. This is the 10th reason I just added before posting this article. It’s quite obvious, but I think many fail in this area after the networking session:

10. No follow-up

That will really depend on your purpose on networking. Do you network only for the activity, knowledge or relationship? The best goal is of course relationship, and it is important to take into consideration on how you follow-up if your goal is relationship. My MLM partners are very good at it, they will keep on “bugging” the people they have just known. They will try to know people better and stay in touch. I agree that some may have different intention, they stay in touch to use you or get your money. But looking at another perspective, there is a better reason. First, people in MLM business believe that they are able to help people to be successful. Second, people in MLM business believe that there is potential in anyone they have met. Taking your money may give them temporary benefit, but many if not most MLM scheme will only let you to be successful when you help other people successful.

What is holding you back on your success in networking? Does this list help you on networking? I really appreciate your comments and thoughts, please do share them with us.

I am also holding a group writing contest, Project Reason-4-Smile: Our Friends, with some prizes. Please check it out on the announcement post here, 12 ways you can become a great friend.

For your networking success,

(Goal photo by Gonzalo Barrientos)

And as promised, here is a video from Randy Pausch and the last lecture.
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1 Comment

  1. Ruba

    This is great
    very helpful!

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